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Elbit Systems UK fired from £280 million worth of Ministry of Defence contracts

Minister of State for Defence Procurement Alex Chalk has confirmed that Elbit Systems UK, a subsidiary of Israel’s largest arms company Elbit Systems LTD, has been forced out of lucrative contracts to deliver training for Dreadnought submarine and Royal Navy crews. The Ministry of Defence has ejected Elbit from a contract worth £160m to deliver Dreadnought crew training, and is ‘negotiating the departure’ of Elbit from a £123m contract for ‘Project Selborne’ Royal Navy training, stating that Elbit now falls short of ‘operational sovereignty standards for the UK’s highest priority capabilities’.

These submissions were made by Chalk in Parliament in responses to questions by Labour MPs Chris Evans, and Kevan Jones – both associated with the ‘Labour Friends of Israel’ group – and by Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey. Elbit’s removal from these contracts was not in the public domain until these questions were asked. Release of this information further damaged Elbit Systems’ plummeting share prices, which fell 10% over November 29th, and is down 18% through November, as the company posts third quarter losses.

The loss of these contracts is a huge blow for Elbit, with their attempts to gain MOD favour a major reason for their manufacturing presence in Britain. These contracts were initially awarded after Elbit’s deep involvement in procurement and training for the Israeli defence, across army, navy, and air forces. Not only are Elbit’s manufactured products described as “field-tested on Palestinians”, but their training and simulation contracts have been gained following their performances in Israel, including delivering the ‘Brigade and Battlegroup Mission Training Centre‘.

However, it now seems that these hundreds of millions of pounds will stop flowing from British taxpayers to the outfitters of Israel’s murderous military – amidst constant pressure of sustained and intensive direct action by Palestine Action. For over two years, Palestine Action has targeted Elbit Systems and its partners with actions that have included breaking into factories and offices, and breaching security in order to impede Elbit’s ability to securely complete its contracts across manufacturing and delivery.

Specifically, Elbit’s Dreadnought MOD training contract was agreed on the 9th May 2022. Just 6 days later, nine activists breached security at Elbit’s Bristol site, where their training operations have been consolidated, and barricaded themselves inside the offices while causing high-level damage. On another occasion, activists from Palestine Action Scotland broke into the factory of Elbit partner Thales and again dismantled what was inside – including a completed periscope which Thales specifically for the Dreadnought-class submarine. Across the over two-year campaign, the sites of Elbit Systems and its partners have been broken into over 100 times. Despite increasing its spending on surveillance, security guards, and even maintaining dogs at all sites, Elbit have been unable to address the constant threat made to its ability to securely deliver on contracts and handle sensitive material.

Palestine Action’s campaign to shut Elbit down and force them out of Britain has so far seen their Oldham factory and London offices forced to close permanently. Actions taken against Elbit partners, such as Thales, APPH, JLL, have seen Elbit appear a decreasingly safe consortium member, while they simultaneously struggle to recruit for British posts – potentially as a result of the strong reputational harm done.

Andrew Feinstein, arms industry expert and author of The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade, stated in relation to these events:

‘The loss of these contracts is a major crisis for Elbit and raises questions about the future of the controversial company in Britain. The government claims that it has happened as part of a ‘sovereignty’ drive, but the reality is that many other foreign defence companies continue to play vital roles as suppliers of equipment and services to the UK’s armed forces. I strongly suspect that they have lost these contracts as a consequence of the Direct Action group Palestine Action having so successfully revealed the brutal reality of Elbit’s gross human rights abuses, especially in enforcing the illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel. Not that the UK government will ever admit this.’

Images: Guy Smallman

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